by Lori K. Rath
Estate planning for digital assets and online accounts is a growing topic of discussion and an increasing number of resources are now available. There are multiple blogs online (for example, thedigitalbeyond.com, digitalestateresource.com), and there was even a panel discussion about the “afterlife” of digital content at the recent SXSW festival in Austin, Texas. While the general information and exchanges of ideas are useful and interesting, at a minimum it is important for the estate planning client to focus on the following: (1) What online accounts (such as bank, investment and trading accounts, e-mail and social media accounts, etc.) and digital assets (such as blogs, photography, writings, the content of e-mail and social media accounts) do you have? (2) Who would you like to be able to access and manage those assets and accounts after your death? (3) How will you ensure that this person will have the correct information and passwords in order to be able to gain access? Sometimes even the surviving spouse or lifetime partner of a deceased person is not able to access the decedent’s online accounts because passwords are not known. A handful of states, including Oklahoma, Connecticut and Idaho, have passed laws that explicitly give executors the power to access and manage certain online accounts, but Washington has not done so. Recently the estate planning group at Lasher Holzapfel added language to our estate planning documents to ensure that a clients’ financial agents and executors have the power to access and manage digital assets and online accounts, including changing passwords. We have also started including a memorandum regarding estate planning for digital assets and online accounts whenever draft estate planning documents are mailed to clients. As the memorandum explains, every client should make and keep an updated list of his or her online accounts and digital assets, along with instructions and passwords for accessing each asset or account. The list should be kept in a secure place, and it is a good idea to let family members and your Financial Power of Attorney know about it. To view a copy of the client memorandum, click on the file below , and contact a member of our Estate Planning Practice Group if you have any questions about estate planning for digital assets and online accounts.
Download File: Digital_Assets_Blog